Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pvt security agencies outside CISF's line of fire

Aasha Khosa & Bibhu Ranjan Mishra / New Delhi/bangalore August 13, 2009, 0:33 IST

Private security agencies can breathe easier. The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which has begun catering to the private corporate sector for the first time, will not pose a threat to their business, is the assurance.

That’s because CISF will be only responsible for protection from terrorist attack, and will not replace the traditional security measures such as frisking and screening of visitors and access-control of premises.

CISF has been permitted to also protect private sector companies after the government made an amendment in the CISF Act in January this year, in the aftermath of the 26/11 attack on Mumbai.

T V Mohandas Pai, member of the Infosys Board and Head of HR and Administration, said, “CISF will provide us added protection; they will provide an overlay cover.” The private security guards will continue to provide security within the campuses, he said. Last Friday, Infosys became the first private establishment to get the security cover from the paramilitary force. CISF will deploy 101 of its armed personnel — headed by an assistant commandant — to guard Infosys in the IT city.

Other private companies like Wipro in Bangalore and the Reliance refinery in Jamnagar are next in line to get such cover, shortly. At least 79 corporate houses, including Reliance, Tatas and Oberois, have so far approached the home ministry, seeking CISF cover.

Wipro, which has sought CISF protection for its Sarjapur Road campus in Bangalore, said CISF will provide enhanced security to the company. “It will supplement the work that is being done by our private security service. CISF can extend armed security to organisations and that’s important,” said Laxman Kumar Badiga, CIO at Wipro Technologies.

A senior CISF official said no private security agency was authorised to fight terrorists, nor can they acquire automatic weapons under the rule of the land. The role of CISF will be to provide armed security and have round-the-clock quick reaction teams, ready to ward off any terrorist attack on the premises of companies.

The sources said CISF is getting ready to provide services to 15 of the 79 companies that have applied for the security cover. A special drive to recruit around 10,000 personnel will be over soon. “Our next recruitment drive would be several times bigger than this one,’’ said Rohit Katiyar, a senior officer.

R K Mishra, Inspector General of CISF, said the services to the corporate sector will not earn any extra income for the force. “CISF is the only paramilitary force that is run on cost-reimbursment basis. Infosys, for example, is paying Rs 3.6 crore per annum and has spent Rs 30 lakh for setting up offices and buying the wherewithal, including arms. Companies have to pay for salaries, clothing, arms and ammunition, pension and leave provisions of the deployed personnel, right from the level of IG to the lowest ranks of cooks and water carriers,’’ he said. The medical costs of the CISF personnel have to be as per the rules of the company.

It has also been made clear that the CISF personnel will not take any orders from the managements of these companies and will report to their respective commanders.

Despite the assurance that deployment of CISF will not affect their business, private security agencies, which provide direct and indirect employment to 5.5 million persons, are not convinced. Most felt if the law permitted them to carry weapons, they could provide the same kind of security as CISF did – at much lower cost.

“Allowing CISF to provide security to the private sector is not a healthy situation as far as security is concerned. We don’t have any issue with the CISF providing security to public sector undertakings, but when it comes to security to corporates, this should be left to for private security agencies,” said Kunwar Vikram Singh, chairman of the Central Association of Private Security Industry (CIPSA), the industry body that represents more than 15,000 security companies in India.

He said while the capability of CISF was beyond question, the private security players had also built up a high level of expertise over the past several years. “All we need is the right kind of weapon. Then we can also provide the same kind of security that has been provided to Infosys, at half the price,” Singh added.

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